Archive

Pa. Supreme Court releases porn emails from AG’s Office computers | TribLIVE.com
Local News

Pa. Supreme Court releases porn emails from AG’s Office computers

ptrkanearraign4080915jpg
Brad Bumsted | Trib Total Media
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane arrives to be processed and arraigned on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at the Montgomery County detective bureau in Norristown.

HARRISBURG — Documents unsealed Wednesday by the state's high court show Attorney General Kathleen Kane's lawyers argued a grand jury probe that led to criminal charges against her was an abuse of grand jury power “to protect two peddlers of depravity from public exposure.”

Lawyers for Kane said in a Nov. 10 filing that former state prosecutors Frank Fina and Marc Costanzo “corruptly manufactured this grand jury investigation to protect their own jobs and reputations.” The two men “should be investigated and possibly prosecuted.”

Neither Fina nor Costanzo could be reached.

They were among dozens of prosecutors and agents who shared pornographic and racially and religiously offensive emails, according to the release of about 1,000 pages of documents, including 398 pages of emails and attachments.

The flagged messages included men and women engaged in sexual acts, genital close-ups, sex toys, a black baby holding a rifle and a photo of what appears to be a young teen wearing a tank top that says, “Admit it: You'd Go To Jail For This.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, for whom Fina and Costanzo now work, said his office “has clear human relations policies, so the district attorney believes that a thorough review is necessary of the email chains and any actions current office employees took in their distribution.”

“We will conclude this review as soon as possible,” Williams said.

Kane has intimated that those involved with what she called a “filthy email chain” conspired to discredit her, leading to her legal problems. She is charged with lying to the grand jury about leaking secret material from a 2009 case and scheming to cover up her actions.

The unsealed documents included accusations by court-appointed special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio that several agents of Kane's office intimidated Fina and Costanzo while they rode the elevator to testify before the grand jury.

Carluccio argued that Kane's office improperly used unauthorized statewide investigating grand jury subpoenas “to obtain on-the-record testimony and events in support of its position.” The action “represents a clear demonstration of assumed unbridled power on the part of the (Office of Attorney General), and a clear abuse of power.”

Kane's counsel fired back in a written response that such an allegation “shocks the conscience,” saying the office did nothing wrong and is trying to participate in a meaningful due process hearing.

Plot against Kane alleged

Kane's attorneys argued in court documents that Costanzo and Fina, with whom Kane has publicly feuded, were “peddlers of pornography and obscenity depositing state paychecks” who schemed to “bury the truth of their own gross misconduct by abusing the powers of the investigating grand jury” and slandering Kane.

“For years, Fina and Costanzo had viewed and distributed pornographic, misogynistic, racial, obscene and offensive emails using their state-owned computers,” Kane's counsel wrote.

Kane found the emails and planned to expose them, the court filing said. Her counsel accused Fina and Costanzo of conniving to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Kane, then misleading the court about the nature of “personal” emails to get them sealed.

“Faced with their imminent personal and professional disgrace and desperate to keep their wrongdoing secret, Fina and Costanzo devised a plot to block their obscene emails from being released to the public,” the filing said.

Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo would not say whether Kane wants to investigate dozens of other current and former employees who used state computers to send or receive pornographic or offensive emails — including some who were promoted. Some people received the emails, but not all sent or forwarded them.

Those are “personnel issues, which I can't discuss according to office policy,” Ardo said. Kane previously dealt with employees according to their level of involvement, he said.

Prosecution for porn rare

Experts said it's unlikely Kane would have prosecuted Fina or Costanzo with regard to the emails.

“What is characterized as ‘pornography' has protections under the First Amendment, as long as it does not involve children or some kind of force such as with sexual trafficking,” former acting Attorney General Walter Cohen said.

“There may well be motivation on the part of Fina and Costanzo, but where is the hard evidence that they somehow conspired to fool (Montgomery County) Judge (William) Carpenter into appointing a special prosecutor and convening a grand jury to investigate her, with approval from the Supreme Court?”

Duquesne University Law School professor Wes Oliver said people are not generally prosecuted for pornography, but they “could be fired if they sent porn over the (state) computer.”

Last fall, Kane released emails and pornographic images from computers of top Republican prosecutors under former GOP Attorney General Tom Corbett, then the governor. Several lost their jobs in the Corbett administration.

Former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who sent graphic emails to the office from his personal computer, resigned.

Six employees of the Attorney General's Office were fired because of the porn emails and 23 in the office were reprimanded, Kane said recently.

A separate employee on the email chains, Louis C. DeTitto, a bodyguard of Kane's, received a promotion, the Allentown Morning Call reported last weekend.

Disturbing images

The documents in seven grand jury filings related to Kane became public at the request of Carpenter, the supervising judge of the Norristown grand jury that recommended charging Kane with crimes.

The court's motivation for releasing the information is believed to be accusations Kane made during a news conference two weeks ago that judges were involved in prohibiting the dissemination of the material.

The court was not responding to a news release Kane put out Tuesday, sources said, in which she said she was renewing her request for permission to release “additional associated documents” with emails that hadn't been released.

One of the seven filings has an attachment containing 398 pages of graphic, objectionable material which the court did not make available on its website but offered at its prothonotary offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Among the content flagged in court exhibits:

• Lewd images of women performing sexual acts with objects.

• Photo of a young boy looking into the underwear of a young girl, with the email subject “Men in Training.”

• A photo of a black baby holding a rifle sent with the email subject “Hot Ghetto Mess!”

• Altered photographs purporting to be nude images of Sarah Palin, President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutors accuse Kane of leaking to the Philadelphia Daily News last year information about a case that Fina declined to prosecute. Her motivation, they said, was to embarrass Fina because she blamed him for disclosing that she shut down a “sting” investigation Fina oversaw that caught several Philadelphia lawmakers on tape accepting bribes.

A judge this week held Kane for trial on charges of perjury, official opporession, obstruction of justice and false swearing.

Brad Bumsted and Natasha Lindstrom are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Bumsted at 717-787-1405 or [email protected] and Lindstrom at 412-380-8514 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.